What Makes An Entrepreneur?

What makes up an entrepreneur?

Simply defined, it’s someone who has started a business. But we all would agree it’s much more than that — it’s the “fire in the belly,” the passion, knowing you can do “it” better than anyone.

The Greater Fayetteville Chamber recently kicked off the Inmates to Entrepreneurs class at our building, run by the Brian Hamilton Foundation.

In seven weeks, would-be entrepreneurs will be well on their way to launching their own businesses. The focus of I2E is low-capital businesses that are easy to start, but no idea is turned away, in keeping with their philosophy of “Entrepreneurship for All.”

The majority of the class is made up of those who have been “judicially involved,” meaning they might have been incarcerated at some point, or had a DUI or some other type of brush with the law.

The stigma of that, with the help of online search engines, can mean a label that lasts a lifetime.

Quite often, their only means of being gainfully employed is to work for another former inmate who gets where they are coming from, or to start their own businesses.

A few of the class members have already done so — we have a pie baker, a clothing designer and a photographer looking to build their companies.

There are would-be CEOs of food trucks trucking companies, barbershops, bin cleaning services, trucking, senior care, auto painting, mental health workers and electricians. As founder Brian Hamilton likes to say — “They’re people, just like us.”

So for the next few weeks they will learn about company structure, budgeting, cash flow, marketing, pricing, sales and customer service. All of the things a successful businessperson should know.

The camaraderie and enthusiasm in the room is contagious. There is commiseration but an abundance of laughter.

The group inspires us to re-learn what we think we know, and then to share it with others.

Mentors are a key part of the I2E curriculum — all of us must have started or run our own business at some point.

We can steer them away from pitfalls, give them tips for success, and most importantly, give them encouragement. Mentors for the program are still being sought — go to brianhamilton.org to apply.

And in seven weeks, let’s celebrate the start of a couple of dozen new businesses in town.

Christine Michaels is president and CEO of the Greater Fayetteville Chamber.